BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, is hitting the pause button on his bill that would reform the VTA board to lessen the influence of San Jose on the countywide transit agency.
Cupertino and Morgan Hill balked at the bill. So the assemblyman has put it on hold until January, when it will return to the Legislature.
“It is important that we get this right,” Berman said in a statement. “AB1091 would establish a smaller, more experienced, and more regionally focused VTA board that is better positioned to address the transportation needs of Santa Clara County’s two million residents.”
Berman’s bill, AB1091, would reduce the 12 member board to nine. Five would be appointed by the five county supervisors, meaning Supervisor Joe Simitian could pick a North County person to join the VTA board.
San Jose would get two seats. And the rest of the cities would get two seats.
One of the seats would go to Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Sunnyvale and Milpitas. The other seat would go to Santa Clara, Campbell, Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill and Gilroy.
The appointed directors would be members of the public who would serve four-year terms. Now, most of the VTA board members are city council members.
The board has been criticized as being San Jose-centric with only token representation from other cities in the county. And as a result, most of VTA’s funds have gone to the BART-to-San Jose project, depriving other cities whose residents pay the transit agency’s sales taxes.
Naturally, San Jose objected to the bill. But more lately, Cupertino and Morgan Hill joined San Jose in dissenting.
Cupertino’s concerns appeared to be that the new VTA board would not be elected and instead appointed.
It also wanted details about how directors for the seats assigned to cities would be determined, according to a summary from Jimmy MacDonald, the chief consultant for the Assembly’s committee on local government.
Those in support of Berman’s bill include Mountain View council members Pat Showalter and Lucas Ramirez, former VTA chair Teresa O’Neill, Gilroy councilman Zach Hilston, Los Altos Hills council member Kavita Tankha, former Mountain View Mayor Mike Kasperzak and Sunnyvale councilman Russ Melton.
MacDonald’s summary of those in support greatly echoes why Berman introduced the bill in the first place, citing the three civil grand jury reports in the past 17 years that faulted VTA’s governance structure.
At this point, the bill had only jumped through one hurdle in the Legislature. It was passed by the Assembly Local Government Committee 7-0.